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Self harm or not?

(16 Posts)

I suffer from generalised anxiety disorder, and take medication for it (on and off since my son was born nearly 5 years ago).

I have since I was a teenager, suffered from a type of dermatitis on my scalp which presents like adult cradle cap. My skin becomes scaly and itchy, and flakes off in huge chunks. It can also become full of blisters and scabs at times. It tends to come on when I am stressed out, and generally I get it treated with some solution from the doctor.

Currently I am very stressed, my father is ill in hospital, I'm going through a court case in family court about my son, and I've not been well either. So my scalp is bad.

My Mum has always told me off about scratching and 'picking' at my scalp, but I've always done it to get rid of the damn stuff. However recently I have been doing it much more - till my scalp is bleeding and sore.

My Mum has noticed, and suggested that what I'm actually doing is self harm and I should go and see the doctor about it. She says the fact that I will sit and do it till I'm bleeding is a very bad sign.

I'm shocked TBH. I feel like it's just a habit, and that as my scalp is particularly bad at the moment, I'm bound to do it more/ it be more sore and bleeding.

Am I kidding myself? What do you think?

LettuceLaughton Tue 07-Jul-15 13:51:36

I'm sorry to hear you're going through this all peopleeaster. I'm afraid I agree with your mum. Sorry.

I used to self harm (obvious self harm) but stopped years ago but I still have watch out that scratching (itching caused by eczema, mozzie bites, well, anything) doesn't turn into a form of subconscious self harm when I'm stressed. I've had it happen many, many times and it's hard to stop. Very hard. Does it feel at all compulsive?

Thanks for the responde Lettuce.

I haven't felt like it was compulsive, more a habit. But once I've started I do have to do it all over until I feel like it's all gone.

It comes off in such horrible big chunks and I'm embarrased so when I'm at home I try and scratch it all off, and am not happy till I feel I've got everything and my whole head is sore.

IhateMagic Tue 07-Jul-15 14:42:52

Sounds like a form of trichotillomania....usually manifests in hair pulling, but skin picking is a manifestation too. And, seeing as you have the skin condition that lends itself so well to being picked, you're doing that.
I imagine it's basically irresistible, the will power and self control it would take to stop would probably make you miserable. I say, as long as no long term damage is being done, do as you please.

IhateMagic - thank you.

Your post has made me really think. Now you mention it, if I have a small bit of skin around my nails I pull and bit at it till it all comes off, I often have little red patches/ scabs on a finger because of this. I always pick scabs too. I get dry patches of skin on my feet which I pick at too.

So you're right... i think it is irresistible.

I don't think any long term damage is being done, but maybe I should ask the doctor about it?

LettuceLaughton Tue 07-Jul-15 17:17:29

Yeah, you really should see the doctor about it. I didn't want to mention trichotillomania but, yeah, it fits.

FortyCoats Tue 07-Jul-15 17:33:08

I'm not sure I'd call that self-harm tbh BUT I'm not an expert so I have to agree with the other posts. Might be worth seeing the doctor about it.

That said... I'm a skin picker. Actually I'm an anything picker. I've never given it a second thought. I have a thing (there is a name which I can't recall just now - KPC or something) on the backs of my arms and upper legs that leaves, not spots but like hard blocked pores on the affected areas. I hate the way I leave my skin but the urge to pick when I feel them is over-whelming. That is possibly a syndrome of some kind but I don't think it's self harm.

I love picking, gross as some people find it. I've even bought fruit acid foot peels so I can peel off the skin after a week.

I have a friend with quite bad psorasis and every time I see him I want to pick him too.

<<just had a little lol to myself there thinking of all your screwed up, about to vom faces grin sorry>>

What I'm basically getting at is ... maybe it's just a 'thing' that some people like/find irresistible/find relaxing.

merricat Tue 07-Jul-15 20:18:18

It sounds like you have a mild excoriation disorder / dermatillomania. I have it too - as a child I picked at my scalp until it bled, and did the same with my lips. It was strongly related to periods of anxiety and stress and I think it was a way of comforting / distracting myself. Now, I'm terrible with scabs and bites, and I'm currently having a problem leaving my right foot alone - I've picked at it so much it stings when I walk blush

In my mind, it isn't self-harm (I used to self-harm in more deliberate ways when I was younger). My DH has other ideas though - to him it's totally self-harm and he hates me doing it. Weirdly, my grandmother has always compulsively picked at herself and I remember her doing it a lot when I was a child. I suspect I've inherited it from her.

I guess the question is whether you want to stop, or whether it's just a low-level manageable coping behaviour like biting your nails. When you do it, does it relieve anxiety? (I'm on anti-anxiety medication too). For me, I don't see it as a big problem that I need to stop doing, just one that I should keep an eye on. My attitude could be totally wrong though!

Thanks guys. All food for thought.

I think I was shocked because like mericat and fortycoats I just look at it as 'picking'. I'm also a spot squeezer, and I guess I equate it with that.

However, as others have mentioned, I guess it could well be something a bit more serious.

I've booked an appointment today with the doc, just to check I'm not actually doing any damage.

I'm happy that I don't feel the need to put a lot of effort into stopping it/ chalking it up to habit, as long as I'm not damaging my scalp or making the problem worse.

It has helped to talk it all through, so thank you. My mom saying that to me kind of made me feel very nervous about it.

LettuceLaughton Thu 09-Jul-15 13:29:37

I think, TBH, a lot of people have to watch that their 'normal' habits don't get out of hand and become a 'problem' habit. Picking. Scratching. Checking the door is locked. Watching what they eat. Loads of things. All harmless or even positive up to a point, but there is a line. Some of us are more prone to cross it and need to be careful.

It's wise of you to go to the doctor. If they can't offer any help for your scalp problem then a dermatology referral may be in order, regardless of the harmlessness (or otherwise) of your picking habit.

IhateMagic Thu 09-Jul-15 16:09:50

Let us know what the Dr says, op. X

Thank you all.

I went to the doctors last night, and was a but surprised by his reaction.

He was't talking self harm, and din't mention excoriation disorder or tricholomania, but he was concerned by how much I had been able to make my scalp bleed.

He said that it could be down to the fact that the skin condition does make my scalp quite itchy, and so I'm trying to relieve that. But then he also said that it could be another physical symptom of my anxiety - especially as I tend to do it when I get home in the evening and am trying to relax.

Either way - the scratching is making the skin condition worse. So he's changed the treatment for that, and would like to see me again next week so that we can see whether the picking and scratching improves as my scalp does.

I had really thought it was nothing, so I'm glad I went and that my Mom mentioned it. The only problem now is that I'm getting a bit anxious about it!!!! Worrying that I need to keep it under control.

Peaceloveandcustardcreams Fri 10-Jul-15 12:50:14

I have this scalp condition too and I also sit and pick the scabs and flakes off, urgh. I also pick my skin until it bleeds and scars, and pull my hair out.
What I wanted to suggest for the physical symptoms was a shampoo called Capasal which has salicylic acid as an ingredient. It's the only thing that helps my scalp.
Best wishes.

Thank you Peaceloveandcustardcreams.

I have been intermittently using betnovate to treat it when it was bad, but the doctor has prescribed me some Capasal now, and told me to use it the minute I start to feel it coming on (mine is a very intermittent problem, but is just bad at the moment) on top of some more betnovate to clear up what is going on now.

Thanks for sharing - kind of glad I'm not the only one who does it!

43mumof2 Fri 10-Jul-15 13:43:22

another picker here to , i do it daily specially in times of stress and anxiety ..i create sores i think and continue to do so till they bleed and are so sore sad they heal over night and i do it all over again the next day ...
i didnt see it as self harm more an anxiety response for me anyway but i could be wrong ..

Hope things settle down for you , tiny comfort for you i know but your not alone x

Peaceloveandcustardcreams Fri 10-Jul-15 13:59:38

You're welcome, and how great that the doctor recommended exactly the same thing smile mine is stress-related as well.

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